All too often I hear about things being "good" for Neosho. Sometimes those "goods" are used to encourage a future action. Other times, those "goods" are used to justify a past action. While the difference may be subtle, it's certainly different in what it means – at least for elected officials!
Let me be a little more specific with an example. A few years back, the city was in a financial quandary. Do we pay employees or follow the law? Ultimately, the city decided to disregard and ignore the restrictions that are put on certain tax funds in order to keep paying its bills and its employees. This was happening prior to my coming on to the council in 2009 and hit the fan soon after my arrival.
What surprised me about the issue was how many people said it was the "right" thing to do and it was "good" to keep paying employees. In this case, some said the "good" outweighed the rules – in other words, it justified the behavior. The root problem, as we all know now, was caused by poor management and oversight combined with overspending. But the argument of "good" was used to distract from real problems the city faced.
Unfortunately, as an elected official, the obligation and oath that we swear to uphold doesn't ever say things like "unless it's good for Neosho" or "if a moral justification can be made as to why a law should be broken." And that's an important point to remember as things are brought up about being "good" for Neosho.
As an elected official, I'm charged with the duty of supporting the laws of the state. There are also things I am specifically forbidden from doing, despite how good they may be. For example, I can't vote to hire (or even appoint to an unpaid board) anyone in my family within four degrees of relation – regardless of their ability to do a job or help the city. That's a protection to avoid nepotism in government and possible abuses of elected officials who would hire family for gain.
My uncle, who has been a golfer for 30-plus years and has kids on the Neosho R-5 golf team, recently applied for the Parks board. Was it good that he wanted to serve? You bet! Did he have the qualification to deal with golf-related issues? Sure he did! Does he receive any pay for the job? Absolutely not one penny! But would I have been removed from office for voting to put him on the Parks board? Yes I would have! Why? Because those are the rules that we are required to play by.
The same issue comes up with economic growth and alphabet entities proposing good things. Could they be good for Neosho? Absolutely! Is progress a good thing? It certainly is! Can't the "good" outweigh any issues that may be in conflict with the law? Absolutely NOT! And that's perspective we must have as politicians sworn to uphold the laws vs. private citizens who may not be aware of all of the rules and restrictions that govern such actions.
Page 2 of 2 - So what's my point? The duties and actions of elected officials don't change just because "it's good for Neosho" or "it's progress." For the record (and I've said it many times), I care very much about our city and I want it to do well. I'm certainly not against progress and I support anything designed to help Neosho – as long as it's done right and in accordance with the rules set forth we are sworn to uphold. "Good" is a reason to make things happen. But no amount of progress or "good" should ever justify bending the rules. Once that slippery slope is walked on, where and when does it ever stop!
Congrats to GalaxSea Cruises and Tours for being the Chamber of Commerce April Employer of the Month. If you are out and about, stop by and see Bart, Karol, Kenny and Cori Mayer next Thursday, April 4, at 11:30 a.m. for their award presentation!
Until next time: stay the course, keep the faith, and may God bless Neosho!
Richard Davidson is mayor of Neosho.